Goosebumps leans heavily on nostalgia, tropes

Gavin Gaddis

goosebumps

“Goosebumps” is best seen while wearing the rose-colored glasses of childhood. If the audience read a ton of “Goosebumps” novels during their adolescent years, they’re going to have a good time.

 

The film follows Zach (Dylan Minnette), a high school student who moves next door to a spooky neighbor R.L. Stine (Jack Black) and their misadventures attempting to recover monsters released from original manuscripts of the popular “Goosebumps” novels.

 

In my mind, there are two types of movies specifically released around Halloween: spooky films which genuinely bring about moments of terror or shock from the audience, and poorly executed—or intentionally cheesy—movies which make a mockery of genuine horror, thus becoming a more childish version known as “spoopy.”

 

“Goosebumps” definitely falls into the latter category. It presents the standard cliches of horror films while also using the same plot beats R.L. Stine favors without an ounce of spookiness while still draped in the trappings of horror.

 

A parade of popular monsters, creatures and scenarios familiar to fans of the books are shown to the reader in rapid-fire fashion during the final act of the film. Very few scary situations occur in “Goosebumps” due to the monsters being so faithfully reproduced from the books. Call me jaded, but I find it hard to be afraid of a cartoonish werewolf wearing a basketball uniform and sneakers.

 

The real reason you’re watching this movie is Jack Black. After some underwhelming film choices in the last decade, it’s quite refreshing to see him taking on a genuinely fun role as R.L Stine.

 

In addition, Black voices “Goosebumps” fan favorite monster Slappy T. Dummy, a voice role I feel compelled to mention for being one of the most memorable parts of the film. His maniacal performance felt on par with Mark Hamill’s Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series,” which I consider the pinnacle of loveable villains.

 

One glaring flaw in “Goosebumps” is an attempt to give depth to human characters. In a given creature feature characters get maybe ten to fifteen minutes of development before the spookiness begins. “Goosebumps” seems to spend at least twenty to twenty-five minutes on stating and re-stating character motivations. While I want to argue in favor of this movie, preaching it as a self-aware campy scary movie for kids, I genuinely feel kids who aren’t fans of the books would be bored silly by the second act.

 

If you’re a grown adult who has little to no interest in the books, you might be sold in the idea by the film “Goosebumps,” but you won’t be incredibly entertained by the film itself.